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The State of the Emergency Nurse Workforce

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   June 05, 2019

The current demographics and future career plans of emergency nurses are highlighted in a new study.

What is the current state of the emergency nursing workforce? And what changes are on the horizon for this group over the next five to ten years?

Recent research provides some answers to these questions. In a new study, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN), the MedEvac Foundation International, the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN), the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA), and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), took a comprehensive and detailed look at the characteristics of emergency, trauma, and transport nurses and the challenges they face.

Below are some of the study's findings.

Workforce Demographics

  • There are an estimated 167,375 providers of direct patient care in the emergency/trauma/transport nursing workforce.
  • 43% of the workforce is under 40 years old.
  • 78% of the workforce are women.
  • Compared to the overall nursing workforce, emergency/trauma/transport nurses are more likely to be male and white.

Education and Experience

  • On average, those surveyed have 16 years of career experience.
  • 78% of the RNs surveyed hold a BSN or higher.
  • 58% hold specialty board certification.

Work preparedness

  • 69% felt prepared or well-prepared to excel at their jobs regardless of their age.
  • 40% desire more training on specific equipment or leadership/management skills.

Work Environment

  • 65% are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs and the work they do
  • 59% of their time is spent on direct patient care
  • 28% of their time is spent on documentation
  • 39% report the workload is too heavy or overwhelming

Nurse Well-Being

  • 42% say their employers value their contributions and care about their well-being.
  • 38% report some symptoms of burnout
  • 50% report their employers provide access to counselors
  • 36% report no resources to address burnout

Salary and career plans

  • $77,500 is the median salary for nurses working full-time
  • Nurses desire funding for professional association membership, conference attendance, and advanced certification.
  • 47% plan to continue in their current roles.
  • The most common planned career changes are to obtain a specialty certification or become an advanced practice registered nurse.

According to the study, the data should help healthcare organizations understand the makeup of the current workforce and accurately project the types and amount of resources necessary to meet the demand for emergency, trauma, and transport nursing services now and in the future.

"The combination of MedEvac Foundation's highly regarded track record in managing quality research studies and the invaluable input, insight and funding support from STN, ASTNA and ENA, has yielded a treasure trove of critical information that will benefit emergency nursing and emergency care, today and in the years to come," says BCEN Executive Director Janie Schumaker, MBA, RN, CEN, in a news release. "This research will inform and enrich our emergency, transport and trauma specialty certification programs and provides valuable information to develop, support and maintain a well-prepared emergency nursing workforce."

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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